German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Dems suffered a loss Sunday in Berlin regional parliament elections, coming 2nd to conservative rivals, broadcaster estimates showed.
The Christian Democratic Union won some 28% while Scholz’s SPD got 18%, its worst postwar result.

BERLIN — The election in Berlin has shaken up German politics, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffering its worst-ever result in the country’s capital.

The election, which had to be repeated on Sunday due to errors in 2021, saw the SPD losing its status as the strongest political party to the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

With the CDU winning 28.2 percent of votes, and the SPD just 18.4 percent, the socialists are now facing the possibility of an inglorious exit from Berlin’s state government after more than twenty years. 

“The clear government mandate for CDU is the first step toward our goal of making the federal capital function better,” said Friedrich Merz, leader of the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, on social media on Monday.

Although the election is over, there is still a neck-and-neck race between the SPD and the Greens for the second place. With 450 votes left to be counted, the social democrats could lose their small lead of 105 votes.

The results clearly reflect dissatisfaction with the current government in Berlin.

According to an analysis by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, a German association focused on election analysis, scores for policies have “rarely been lower.”

Although the Greens suffered the smallest losses of the three governing parties, their performance was assessed as particularly poor.

The issue of expropriation — seizing private properties from so-called “mega-landlords” — has driven a wedge between the SPD and its coalition partners the Greens and Left Party.

Although the majority of Berliners voted in favor of expropriation in a referendum on the matter almost a year and a half ago, no concrete steps have been taken since as parties failed to come to an agreement.

“Expropriation does not create new housing,” the German chancellor said during the election campaign, addressing the Greens and the Left who favor the idea of expropriation.

Like many cities in Germany, Berlin is struggling with an increasing housing shortage, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis hampering government construction efforts.

Although the SPD has governed the German capital since 2001, Mayor Franziska Giffey has hardly had a smooth time in office — with mistakes and shortcomings continually piling up.

  Voters were particularly irritated by the mistakes that led to Sunday’s rerun of the election. In the first election in September 2021, many voters were unable to cast their ballots in time, while other votes were declared invalid due to incorrect ballots.

There were also long queues and delays outside the polling stations due to other major events that were taking place at the same time, including the Bundestag election, as well as the Berlin Marathon and a referendum on the expropriation of large housing companies.

Last year’s election was eventually declared void.

However, despite Sunday’s clear election result, it is not yet known whether the CDU will lead the next government.

This would only be possible in an alliance with the SPD and the Greens, which are traditionally more left-wing in the capital and therefore have less common political ground with the conservative CDU.

There was “no opportunity for power” for the CDU’s top candidate Kai Wegner, SPD co-leader Saskia Esken told public broadcaster ARD.

Esken said Wegner had run a campaign of “demarcation and division,” limiting his opportunities to form a government.

As the current government has a larger majority than any potential CDU-led coalition, the SPD is pushing for continuation rather than an alliance with the conservative party.

“But of course, it is also taken very seriously that we have an election winner here who is clearly ahead of us,” said Giffey.

The German media has widely labeled the election as a “protest vote” against the left-wing alliance.

The previous two elections in the capital had already heralded a possible end to the SPD’s era, and Giffey was unable to stop the downward trend.

However, it would not be the first time that a German state be run without the participation of the strongest political force.

It now remains to be seen whether the CDU can succeed in winning a coalition partner in Berlin.

If this were to happen, it would also provide further tailwind at the federal level.

Of the last five state elections in Germany, three were won by the conservative party, which is also leading in national polls. 

With Europe’s largest economy hit by high inflation due to the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the federal government is also starting to lose support.

According to the latest Deutschlandtrend survey, two out of three Germans are dissatisfied with Scholz’s so-called “traffic light” coalition — SPD (red), the liberal FDP (yellow), and the Greens. – Xinhua